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Book Review: “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”

by Suleman

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” The hit in the 2013 business sector was Sheryl Sandberg. A detailed reading of the book reveals valuable advice and inspiration not only for women but also for those who want a career development. You can conclude your advice with the following statements after reading the whole book. Second, if women continue to offer excuses on the basis of the ageing gender bias that they face anywhere in society, they can not accomplish anything. The scholar instead says that a woman “leans” In other words, they should concentrate on what they want and be consistent. The advice is definitely not available from a woman who is exceptional but from a normal woman who is as perplexed as other women in some situations. Sandberg admits, “I still face situations that I fear are beyond my capabilities…find myself spoken over and discounted…” (38). However, the difference she achieved through the leaning in is “now I know how to take a deep breath and keep my hand up. I have learned to sit at the table.” (38).

Sandberg reveals the life experience of Virginia Rometty, IBM’s first CEO, without offering any opportunity to suggest the story is exceptional. At such an early age, she was puzzled that she got the “big job” and wanted more time to think about it. Her husband, however, played the Good Samaritan in her situation, asking: ‘Do you believe that any man would have answered the question like this? “(36).” The message is loud and simple, all in faith, and even some succeed not because they have no doubts whatsoever. The book also has a lot of practical guidance about how families should grow and vice versa.

Book Review: “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”

In “The Leadership Ambition Gap: What do you do if you’re not afraid?” Sandberg claims. “Although in the modern world, where ‘we have no longer to search for our food in the wild’ (19), culture is influenced by the desire for leadership, women are most likely to cultivate it and men are longer genetically dedicated. This means that the scholar points out that from the very beginning of his life society treats boys and girls differently. She says that in every part of society the disparity is obvious. Although children are thought to be ‘intelligent’ girls should be ‘pretty.’ In other words, a girl who plays the leading position is perceived as “bossy” and despised as opposed to the idea of women. In all these things women tend to be quiet in the workplace, even though the authorities do not silence it, so they must be “pretty like mom.” Thus what a woman says is, if she is able to take on the challenges and “lean in,” a woman can be as successful as men in leadership roles.

Nancy J. Adler’s essay “Globe leadership: women leaders” reveals that many of the scholars’ arguments about the leadership of men and women in the modern world are entirely overlooked. For example, Adler reports from Rosta’s study (1991), that leadership is ‘rational, bureaucratic, manual, technocratic, quantitative, cost-driven, hierarchical, short-term, pragmatic and materialistic’ (174) according to most leadership theories.

In Hoyt’s view, however, women are stereotyped as sensitive, wet, kind and nutritious (5). Thus, there is a difference between the feminine elements and the leadership position in accordance with the position of congruity. This is because women are more community-based, and less likely to be ‘agentic’ according to current definitions (Hoyt 4). If a woman is effective in overcoming stereotypes, her conduct is deemed unsuitable for the community. As a result, women leaders are potentially less favourable than men.

This negative activation of stereotype influences female leaders’ self-perceptions. The research by Spencer, Steele & Quinn (1999) is proving this by the scholar. The study shows that women ‘s low performance is correlated with activation of women’s inferiority stereotype. Furthermore, Hoyt argues that such stereotypes psychologically separate people from the respective field (3).

However, there are still issues to be solved before totally appreciating the claim by Sandberg. To illustrate, there is the psychological reactance theory proposed by Brehm (1996). According to this theory, some individuals develop reactance response when they are presented with a negative stereotype. That means people tend to reassert their freedom when their freedom is restrained (Hoyt 5). An empirical explanation of this claim came from the study by Pennebaker & Sanders (1976); they point out that a greater amount of graffiti was found on the wall of a bathroom which strictly forbids writing as compared to a wall which nicely requests people to refrain from writing (266). Thus, the claim is clear; strong stereotypes are likely to invoke a reactance response in the subjects.

Thus, the claims made by Sandberg falls into ambiguity for it is found that stereotypes have varying effects on various people according to the various theories. In order to check whether the claims made scholar are applicable only to exceptional cases, it becomes necessary to look into more studies. Stoddard, Kliengklom & Ben-Zeev (2003) studied this question further and found that when subtle stereotype is likely to evoke assimilation, blatant stereotype activation results in reactance or a heightened desire to assume the leadership position (Hoyt 4).

At this juncture, it becomes necessary to find out in whom the stereotype activation leads to assimilation and in whom it leads to reactance response. It is found in the research conducted by Hoyt that the when there is stereotype activation, leadership self-efficacy can act as an effective buffer. In other words, females with high efficacy are likely to show reactance when they are met with the stereotype while the low efficacy ones are likely to become vulnerable to confirming the stereotype.

The article “Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change” by Bandura claims that expectations of self-efficacy can be derived from performance accomplishments, negative experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states (191). Thus, the claim made by Sandberg that professional women have potential not less than men, seems correct. The male-dominated society deters them from achieving what they can through various stereotypes.

This book will have a profound impact on my everyday life and my work life. Admittedly, living in the patriarchal society, I tend to believe that women are not suitable for managerial jobs as they lack leadership qualities. However, I realize from the book that females are as ambitious as men in career achievement and are as good as men in leadership positions. The only difference is that stereotype activation hinders them from achieving what they deserve. Firstly, they develop poor sense of self-efficacy, and secondly society criticizes them for doing any activity that does not suit their perceived feminine submissive, nurturing and caring features. This book will help me give up the biased view of gender-related roles. I gain the knowledge that both males and females are able to be good leaders and the main hindrance is the stereotypes in the present day society. The practical value of this book is that this will help females understand that the real reason for their underachievement is not lack of ability but social conformity. This realization will make them fight against odds and raise their voice even in male-dominated areas. Thus, the book will certainly boost the self-efficacy of women.

The book is an eye-opener for males in managerial positions because it will help them appreciate the potential of their female colleagues and offer them a gender-neutral workplace. In total, the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg is one of its kind because it does not end up offering some impractical findings or suggestions. Instead, the author successfully introduces practical advices based on her own life. Instead of only claiming herself as a superhuman, she puts forward some simple suggestions which will help every woman better organize their lives to reach the top of the career. The book urges two things; removing misconceptions based on stereotypes and persistence. Also, the research works analyzed support what she claims.

I would happily recommend this book to all professionals because it will help them see through stereotypes and create a better workplace with more understanding and equality. It will be useful to see leadership qualities as different from gender related features. Instead of complaining about or raging against the existing system, the book teaches females how to struggle through the conformity set by the mainstream society by showing firstly that stereotyping is the main reason and also that persistence is the to success. Thus, in my opinion, the book is the best motivational book for those females who want to achieve great levels in their lives.

To sum up, I would like to say that the book is unique because it adopts a multifaceted approach. On the one hand, it reproaches the discrimination meted out to women in the society, and on the other, it educates women about the way the discrimination impacts their lives and believes both knowingly and unknowingly. Thirdly, it suggests practical ways for women to struggle through the barriers erected by the society to reach heights, and lastly, it provides a lot of motivation.

Works Cited
  • Adler, J. Nancy. “Global Leadership: Women Leaders.” Management International Review, 37. SPEISS (1997): 171-196. Questia. Web. 22 Nov 2013.
  • Bandura, Albert. “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.” Psychological Review, 84. 2 (1977): 191-215. Web. 22 Nov 2013.
  • Hoyt, Crystal and Jim Blascovich. “Leadership Efficacy and Women Leaders’ Responses to Stereotype Activation.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 10. 4 (2007): 595-616. Print.
  • Pennbaker, James W and Deborah Y Sanders. “American graffiti: Effects of authority and reactance arousal..” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2. 3 (1976): 264-267. Print.
  • Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. UK: Random House, 2013. Print.

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